Q&A: Will England’s National Food Strategy help tackle climate change?

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was released, offering a broad summary of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and consumption of food– in England..

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 suggestions for the UK government to think about, including financial incentives, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-lasting change in the food system..

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief discusses and takes a look at the report how its recommendations line up– or do not align– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

The NFS is the conclusion of more than 2 years worth of meetings and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the public.

The very first part of the method, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to attend to food insecurity and appetite in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The recently published 2nd part has the stated objective of offering a “detailed prepare for transforming the food system”..

The federal government has devoted to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in response within the next six months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually been “noncommittal” to much of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

What is the National Food Strategy?

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of marine wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy industry.”.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it notes that the house nations “food systems are so securely linked regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “may in turn find some useful concepts” in the technique.

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Others state that the steps set out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

Davey adds that, in his view, “every country worldwide would benefit from doing something of this kind”.

The reaction to last weeks release saw members of parliament, star chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

The NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the worldwide engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, informs Carbon Brief.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. While the existing food system is capable of feeding the “most significant international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high environmental cost. The report notes:.

This report by @food_strategy has some intriguing and far reaching ideas that would imply a big change for the much better in our food system and make all of us much healthier. I hope that these strategies will be taken up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The NFS was commissioned by the UK government in 2019 as the first independent review of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Its aim was to provide a roadmap for changing the food system from its existing state to one that is healthier for the population and the planet..

Why is the food method crucial for dealing with environment change?

In addition, practically all of the gains made in the food sector have been because of cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Changes due to farming have actually been negligible– as seen by the big green bar in the chart below.

Nearly half of all food-related emissions are due to farming, consisting of rearing livestock. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have actually caused a third of overall international warming given that the industrial revolution”, the report notes.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a percentage of the 2008 emissions in that sector. By 2018, emissions had actually minimized by 13%, however none of this change was due to improvements in farming. Total emissions reduced by 32% over that same period. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has actually pledged to decrease emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The federal government has also set a legally binding target to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of transportation, fertiliser and food manufacturing and packaging..

” Theres quite a great deal of siloed thinking of the food system. From the point of view of integrated national policymaking that delivers, its fantastic.”.

Trying to produce a healthier population while farming in a less destructive method needs collaboration across disciplines, Davey tells Carbon Brief. He says:.

” Without addressing the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those climate change responsibilities [laid out by law] and to add to mitigating environment change.”.

Research recommends that the food system is responsible for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers have to do with the very same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health scientist at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however different research studies draw different borders around what counts as the food sector.).

The food system has seen substantially smaller decreases in sector-wide emissions because 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have actually reduced by nearly one-third considering that 2008, however food-related emissions have reduced by just 13% over the same time..

What parts of the food method could make the most significant impact on environment change?

” The concern is how quickly will those reforms really attend to the climate difficulty … I believe the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the viewpoint of what the land sector needs to do to attain the UK national targets? I dont know. Its certainly an action in the ideal direction, but theres most likely an argument that its not enthusiastic enough.”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “excellent starting point”. However, he includes:.

The proposed framework utilizes the “3 compartment model”, which strives for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to meet the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to spur innovation to “produce a better food system”. Introducing obligatory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 individuals. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would permit organizations and the government to evaluate their progress on the goals laid out in the report.

A lot of the recommendations made in the report relate in some method to environment change or ecological sustainability. These suggestions consist of:.

What are the limitations of the food strategy in dealing with environment modification?

Limousin beef cattle in a barn feeding on hay, Selside UK. Credit: John Bentley/ Alamy Stock Photo.

The food system “is very complex”, Gill says, “but I do not believe thats any reason for not really highlighting a few of those issues right at the start”.

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to deal with all sort of problems. And if you wish to resolve appropriately the environmental concerns, plus the health concerns, you really have to address the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”.

The report likewise “truly shied” far from taking a strong position on lowering meat intake, Springmann states, with influence on both the environment and public health. He states:.

Gill also keeps in mind that the report, while extensive, does not totally think about the unintended consequences of its suggestions. For instance, a much greater proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is lost than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat may increase the amount of food waste.

” There are already a lot of meat replaces on the market and even more so when you consider natural meat replaces like more beans, lentils and those examples … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet does not necessarily require to include processed meat alternatives would have been crucial, but that was missed out on there and instead this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by businessman and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– means the report itself “reveals a little bit of a manipulated focus” towards business-focused services, Springmann says.

” Another thing that appears to be missing out on is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a transformation in farming … And its going to take years [for the recommendations in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

For instance, the recommendation towards buying innovation lists alternative proteins as a key area in requirement of research study financing. Nevertheless, Springmann says, the alternative-protein market is currently very strong. He tells Carbon Brief:.

The recommendations “seem to be nearly sort of looking backwards instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

How does the food method address the competing interests of farming land use and land usage for carbon sequestration?

” Globally, the most significant possible carbon advantage of eating less meat would not actually be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Receive our complimentary Daily Briefing for a digest of the previous 24 hours of climate and energy media coverage, or our Weekly Briefing for a round-up of our material from the previous seven days. Simply enter your e-mail below:.

Nature-based options, such as peatland remediation and afforestation, are expected to play a major role in lots of countries and business net-zero targets, however much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a wonder”. The proposed structure uses the “3 compartment model”, which strives for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller sized centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data program, which would allow businesses and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, shows how much land is used abroad to produce food for the UK. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars show the carbon “chance cost”, meaning the amount of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

Reducing meat consumption would also assist alleviate the pressure on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the large majority of that land.

” The type of land that could provide the best environmental benefits is often not very agriculturally efficient. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the overall output of the land, while the bottom 33% just produces 15%.”.

The chart below programs that when the carbon sequestration “chance cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of numerous food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat in fact goes beyond that of beef, due to the big quantities of land required to graze those animals and their hunger for tree saplings.

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that simply over 20% of agricultural land must be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to achieve net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already suggested his hesitancy to support some of the policy recommendations laid out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

The report keeps in mind that with the right rewards for farmers to repurpose their land, the strategy could be equally beneficial towards farmers and the environment. It mentions:.

Establishing the method will involve gathering information on farming efficiency, priority nature areas for conservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted areas. It will likewise construct on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to recognize the land finest fit for nature repair..

The chart below demonstrate how all land in the UK is assigned (left) and how much abroad land is utilized to produce food for the UK (best).

As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in supplying adequate land to produce the required food, however also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Total carbon expenses (kgCO2e) per kilogram of various foodstuff. The teal bars suggest the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars show the carbon “opportunity cost”, indicating the quantity of CO2 that might be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The suggestions themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that are there do not appear to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the moment.”.

UK land area divided up by purpose. About 70% is committed to farming, mainly livestock and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the exact same scale, demonstrates how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land use happens overseas. The combined acreage for raising beef and lamb for UK intake is bigger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Sharelines from this story.

In order to resolve these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use strategy to finest assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

The government has actually devoted to producing a response to the technique, consisting of proposals for new legislation, within the next six months..